President Joe Biden on Tuesday authorized the release of 50 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which is complicating his administration’s goal to transition to cleaner energy sources.
Biden said he coordinated the release from the reserve, a complex of four sites along the Louisiana and Texas Gulf Coasts, with leaders in Japan, South Korea, India and the United Kingdom, which would also release their own reserves.
He clarified that this would not affect gas prices over night.
The president said the release from the reserve was intended to relieve high prices in the short term, but a strategy to transition to other fuel sources would be more effective in the long term.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm echoed the president to reporters at a press briefing following Biden’s remarks. She said the administration was aiming to provide short-term relief from oil prices that are at a seven-year high.
She said the White House hoped to see domestic oil producers return to their pre-pandemic levels, even as Biden has made climate action a central part of his agenda, which would mean more reliance on clean energy rather than oil.
On Thursday, November 18, the Iowa Environmental Council will hold a two-hour Bright Ideas 2021 event to discuss sources of clean energy in Iowa, like solar and wind power.
The event runs from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Des Moines but has satellite, group-viewing options in Iowa City and Waterloo. Attendees also have the option to watch a livestream that doesn’t allow participation.
The featured speaker is Destenie Nock, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. She plans to address energy equity.
The in-person locations include a brunch. The cost to attend ranges from $25 for online viewing to $65 for the Des Moines location. Students and young professionals will get discounts.More information is available here.
U.S. President Joe Biden urged countries at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference to invest in a decade of climate action.
He called on countries to transition to clean energy and curb greenhouse gas emissions at the conference in Glasgow, Scotland. He isolated more developed countries to commit to climate goals, including helping developing countries adapt to climate change.
According to Iowa Capital Dispatch, Biden said the U.S. and other mostly developed countries have a larger responsibility to address climate change. The 46th president also committed to trying to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 in the U.S. Biden will announce additional plans to attain those goals, including combating deforestation.
Biden discussed his $1.75 trillion spending plan that hopes to create a strategy to reduce the risk of future natural disasters and shocks. Specifically, the plan promises more than $500 billion to climate initiatives. Congress might consider the plan soon. The “Build Back Better” plan also provides tax credits for clean energy industries in the country, an approach Biden said could create more jobs.
Biden also apologized for former President Donald Trump withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord.
On Tuesday, May 26, the largest piece of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor’s (ITER) tokamak was installed on-site in southern France, making fusion energy seem more like a reality according to ITER Newsline.
The ITER project is an experimental fusion energy project that hopes to produce 500 MW of fusion power, advancing our goal of creating carbon-free energy that operates under the same principles as stars, according to ITER’s about page.
Fusion energy comes from the combination of hydrogen nuclei which fuse at extremely high temperatures to create helium as it’s only byproduct. By 2025, ITER will start its first plasma, making it the world’s largest operational tokamak.
A tokamak is an experimental donut-shaped container that contains extremely hot plasmas; a state of matter where electrons are disassociated from their nuclei according to Britannica.
ITER is a collaboration of 35 countries and has been in the works since 1980. The project has a price point of about $23.7 billion to construct it’s 10 million parts, according to WIRED. This the most ambitious energy project today and is crucial in advancing fusion science according to ITER.
To combat climate change, an alternate energy source that produces zero cabon emissions is needed, which fusion energy can fulfill.
From 2008 to 2016, the portion of the U.S.’s energy derived from coal decreased from 51 percent to 31 percent. Of those coal units that are still up and running, about 25 percent of them plan to retire or switch to another energy source soon. While some coal units are retiring completely, many of them are switching to natural gas. Either way, the report found that the decreased coal production has provided the following environmental health benefits:
80 percent less sulfur dioxide, a source of acid rain
64 percent less nitrogen oxide, a key component in smog
34 percent less carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping gas
Scientists estimate these changes have saved residents about $250 billion in public health costs related to breathing polluted air from 2008 to 2016.
The researchers also looked at the challenges faced by economies in former coal-mining areas to learn more about how residents cope with closing plants. The results were decidedly mixed. For example, after one especially dirty plant in Chicago closed down following years of activism, area residents found that the city planned to redevelop the building into a transportation center–posing additional air quality risks. In contrast, an organization in West Virginia is working to train laid off coal-workers in construction, agriculture and solar energy jobs. As the shift to cleaner energy sources continues, the Union of Concerned Scientists call on lawmakers. They write,
“As more coal plants close, the importance of investing in these and other impacted communities will only grow. Policy makers should prioritize economic development and job transition assistance, alongside other investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency.”
This segment discusses what Iowa City’s citizens are doing to mitigate and adapt to a changing climate.
Transcript: There was standing room only at the Iowa City Climate Action and Adaption community meeting last month.
This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.
The community meeting was organized by Iowa City’s Climate Action Steering Committee, which was formed in June 2017 following President Trump’s announcement that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. Since then, city council and the steering committee have committed Iowa City to the same goals outlined by the Paris Climate Accord: community-wide greenhouse gas reduction goals of 26-28 percent by the year 2025 and 80 percent by 2050, where 2005 emissions levels serve as a baseline.
Attendees were invited to vote for climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies for Iowa City in five categories, including energy, waste, transportation, adaptation, and other. The steering committee plans to send a city-wide survey by mail in December to residents that are unable to attend the initiative’s community meetings.
After a final community input meeting on April 26th, the steering committee will present their completed Climate Action and Adaptation Plan to city council in May 2018.
According to the annual U.S. Department of Energy report, wind energy is expected to continue being a cheaper option for consumers than other energy sources. Without figuring in federal tax credits and state-run programs, wind energy costs an average of 5 cents per kilowatt hour whereas a highly efficient natural gas power plant charges consumers an average of 5.4 cents per kilowatt hour.
The authors also found that wind turbines erected in 2016 are taller and more powerful than in years past, allowing them to generate more energy. In the last five years alone, the generating capacity of individual wind turbines has increased by 11 percent.
About 8,203 megawatts of new wind energy was added to the U.S. energy portfolio in 2016, which made up 27 percent of energy infrastructure additions last year. Twelve states now produce more than 10 percent of their energy with wind while Iowa and South Dakota remain the only states that generate upwards of 30 percent of their energy with turbines. Texas, Oklahoma and Iowa have the highest wind-capacity nationwide.
Shooting enormous turbines further up into the atmosphere allows them to capture the stronger and more steady wind flow present at higher altitudes. The giant structures will also feature blades that are 200 meters long, compared to today’s turbine blades which are typically about 50 meters in length. In an interview with Scientific American, Christopher Niezrecki, a professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Center for Wind Energy at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, explained that if the blades double in length, they can produce up to four times as much energy.
The turbines will have two blades rather than three to reduce the weight and cost of the structures. They’ll likely be placed far off in the ocean, where they’ll be less of a disturbance to people. Researchers plan to design the turbines to withstand strong winds from hurricanes and other extreme weather events. In part, the structures will take a cue from palm trees, which frequently endure intense storms. Eric Loth is the project lead. He said,”Palm trees are really tall but very lightweight structurally, and if the wind blows hard, the trunk can bend. We’re trying to use the same concept—to design our wind turbines to have some flexibility, to bend and adapt to the flow.”
Within the year, the researchers will test a much smaller version of the design in the mountains of Colorado. They expect to produce a full-sized prototype in the next three years.
The project website reads, “Bringing our project to full fruition will be a major step toward maximizing U.S. offshore wind power.”
States were ranked using twelve metrics that fit into three general categories: technical progress; direct, visible effects on our daily lives; and policies to build momentum for the future. Their publication pointed out that despite recent federal rollbacks of Obama-era climate policy, great strides have been made in renewable energy development. They note that wind farms nationwide produce enough electricity to power 20 million U.S. households. Additionally, they write, enough solar electric panels were added in 2016 to power another two million houses.
The usual suspects led the pack with California at the top of the list. The Golden State is among the top performing states in eight of the metrics and is in the number one position for electric vehicle adoption. Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Oregon, Maine, Washington, New York and Iowa complete the top ten list. Iowa is the first midwestern state to appear on the list, followed by Minnesota.
Wind energy has played a fundamental role in Iowa’ development as a clean energy leader. The Hawkeye state was the first to generate more than 30 percent of its energy from wind. Iowa has already seen $11.8 billion in wind project investment alongside the creation of 8,000 new jobs. Moving forward, Iowa is expected to generate 40 percent of its energy from wind by 2020.
“While the federal government can play important roles in making efficiency, renewable energy, and vehicle electrification a national priority, states can be a consistent, powerful, positive force as well,” the report read.
The first is the world’s largest solar power plant, which was completed in early December. Built in just eight months, the solar plant is expected to power up to 150,000 homes and is comprised of 2.5 million individual solar modules. Located at Kamuthi in Tamil Nadu, the solar plant’s area tops the previous world leader, Topaz Solar Farm in California. The operation has the capacity to generate up to 648 Megawatts of energy.
As a whole, India generates more than 10 Gigawatts of its energy from solar power and is expected to become the world’s third leader in solar power generation, behind only the United States and China.
Just 60 miles away from the solar farm is the world’s first large-scale industrial plant to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and utilize them to make a profit.
The factory, funded by London-based investors, Carbonclean, captures carbon dioxide emissions from its own coal-powered boiler which are then used to make baking soda, and other chemical compounds found in detergents, sweeteners and glass. Carbon Capture and Utilization (CCU) at the 3.1 million dollar plant is expected to keep 60,000 tons out of the atmosphere each year. Previously, CCU was too costly for many business owners.
In an interview with BBC news, Ramachadran Gopalan, owner of the chemical plant, said, “I am a businessman. I never thought about saving the planet. I needed a reliable stream of CO2, and this was the best way of getting it.”
Two young Indian chemists developed the new way to strip carbon dioxide from emissions using a form of salt that binds with carbon dioxide molecules in the boiler’s chimney. According to the inventors, the new approach is less corrosive and much cheaper than conventional carbon capturing methods. Carbonclean expects that systems like these have the potential to offset five to ten percent of the world’s total emissions from burning coal.